Friday July 01, 2022

Benazir Bhutto: A fight against extremism and despotism

December 28, 2017

"Pakistan's future viability, stability and security lie in empowering its people and building political institutions. My goal is to prove that the fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of a generation can be accomplished only under democracy" -- Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

The month of December brings sadness. Emotions run high and flash back to the tragedy of December 27 along with intrusive memories which traumatised people of Pakistan as a whole, regardless of their political affiliation. The one leader who united us, who taught us the meaning of dignity and courage, who was a symbol of Federation and a visionary to lead the nation in a respectful manner on international horizon is missing today.

Time heals all wounds but pain always remains and reminds you of the past memories making your life more difficult than death. Ten years, a decade has passed silently. We mourn the death of a great leader remembered in history for the role she played in setting up the political dynamics of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, an icon, a legend, a leader of the people who would always project the true image of a democratic Pakistan. She was an exceptional personality with a strong voice against autocratic rule and a strong believer in people's power.

Democracy is the only way for the future of Pakistan as the country's foundation is based on democratic values and its survival could only be ensured by vibrant and stable democracy. Democracy which can deliver to the people of Pakistan, not personal family fiefdoms in the name of political parties. It is also a reality that quest for democracy has always been compromised in Pakistan and the general perception about the politicians is that they have failed to deliver. A serious vacuum of national leadership is deeply felt in the country today after the unfortunate assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

The present spate of militancy, sectarian violence and religious bigotry are the legacy of different dictatorial regimes and weakening of democratic institutions. The PPP under Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto always opposed and challenged these forces. The stand of PPP had never been vague or compromising to placate the militants and violent sectarian outfits. PPP under Benazir Bhutto always believed in religious tolerance which could make Pakistan a pluralistic and progressive society. This is the proper time when we will have to adopt the true spirit of Islam. A religion of peace, love and humanity and which respects all religious beliefs. State should play its due role to allow freedom of religious beliefs and protect all minorities from religious discrimination.

Bibi believed that a safe and secure Pakistan would bring economic stability to Pakistan through foreign investments, which would help us to slow down the rising tide of class difference due to poverty and unfair distribution of state resources. By doing this it will certainly undermine the extremist forces. People are looking towards a leader who could solve their problems, give them relief, lift their spirits and reinvigorate the masses.

She would stay calm in tense situations. Her affection for the political workers was unbounded. She was brave and broad minded. She was communicative, compassionate, courageous and a hard task master. She was able to run the party through her charismatic and strong personality even during nine years of exile. During her tenure as chief executive of the country she took bold initiatives for national reforms and modernisation. She was a great inspiration to the women all over the world particularly for women in the Muslim world and for her global fight against radicalism and extremism.

She firmly believed that what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we led. Her image was more of a liberal and modern person centered on the vision of a democratic Pakistan.

She had opened her door for dialogue with the military regime of General Musharraf which ultimately forced him to take off his uniform, hold fair and free elections and transfer power to the elected representatives. Although, she faced a lot of criticism, yet she did it for stability of Pakistan and in the interest of the political system.

She was not happy living away from her homeland where she spent her childhood, away from her own home and moreover, from her own people and decided to return to Pakistan to lead the election campaign in 2007.

Today Benazir Bhutto's absence is felt even more especially when Pakistan is confronted with many challenges. Our foreign policy without a proper foreign minister for a long period has failed to perform in this fast changing world. Relationship with major powers, blocks and neighbours are presently at its worst. We have not been able to capitalise our central strategic position in the global world particularly in South Asia.

Apart from terrorism and poor governance, political instability and economic mess, massive corruption by the top political leaders has led to despondency amongst the public. Our society is clearly divided between the moderate and the radical elements and between different ethnic and sectarian beliefs. Growing militancy on both sides of the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan has created trust deficit and developed suspicions and doubts at both ends. Relationship with Afghanistan was cordial during Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's government as her policy on Afghanistan was very clear. She always wanted that Afghanistan should be stable, free of foreign interference and the Afghan people should have a political system of their own choice.

Although she herself paid a very heavy price for democracy but all these difficulties strengthened her resolve and commitment to build up a just society to look after the economic interests of the poor people of Pakistan and to uplift their life standards. She was a ray of hope for the people for a better future. She was a vocal advocate of democratic system in Pakistan to protect her countrymen from human rights abuses and to give them political freedom so that they can freely choose their governments and to convert their energies towards positive side to work for the betterment of the country.

She was very concerned about the future of young generation of today particularly living in Fata. She believed that isolation from political system, poverty; lack of economic infrastructure, poor health condition and lack of education is the main cause of extremism in these areas. She was of the view that apart from use of force in tribal areas political and social steps should also be taken to improve their socio-economic conditions because people from tribal areas are not treated well and there is a need to bring them in the mainstream politics. She would believe that isolation from political system and enhanced poverty is the main cause of extremism in the tribal areas. There is a need to provide education at a large scale and to establish industry to create employment for the youth.

Today when Pakistan is once again facing deep crises her absence is being felt even more. The present situation is not only a threat to the political system of our country but it is alarming for the entire region since extremist groups are taking over the political landscape very rapidly.

She would strongly want to safeguard Pakistan's own security with the proper function of state institutions and having cordial civil-military relationship. In fact, she would believe Pakistan is not an ordinary country and it is faced with two different faultliness; one between democracy and dictatorship and other between moderate and extremist forces. She would strongly believe that all the moderate forces should work together to pull the country out of these crises. She had pointed out on several occasions that Pakistan is confronted with big challenges and there is a need to modernise Pakistan to give space to the progressive forces.

She was a stateswoman with extraordinary qualities who had left deep marks on the political horizon of Pakistan. She gave her life in active pursuit of her vision of true democracy for her country, and in death she has become in eternal martyr to the cause she believed in.

She is no more in the world but millions of people in Pakistan and around the world consider her an iconic figure as far as her struggle for democracy is concerned. She had a deep faith and trust in people's power. She knew extremist forces may kill her but cannot eliminate her from the political landscape of Pakistan nor can they erase her name from the pages of history. She would remain a living factor in democratic politics for all times to come. Bibi you will always be remembered.

I know death comes.I have seen too much death, young death. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.